Welcome Silly Runners!

If you love to run in costume, you have come to the right place! We are always adding to the site, so keep checking in with us for more costumes to buy, ideas for costumes to make, and links to crafty instructions. Hope to see all you silly runners out on the road!

Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy – Costuming in the Round

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Boatmobile

My first thought for costumes when I heard the theme for Portland’s 2014 Run Like Hell was “Under the Sea,” was to do Marlin and Dory from Finding Nemo. But after weeks of looking at examples, I just couldn’t get started. I realized the problem was not with the difficulty of making fish costumes (which is not a small problem), but with a lack of excitement for the concept. So I started looking for undersea characters that I could get excited about, and quickly decided on Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy from SpongeBob Squarepants.

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Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy are semi-retired superheroes with diminished powers due to their advanced ages. This seemed ideal for my husband and I; age-appropriate costumes at last! And I have been struggling with asthma this year, so my running powers are certainly diminished. Plus I love costumes that appeal to kids and make people laugh, and these two are the funniest heroes under the sea. They really put the “silly” in Run Silly!

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My next step was to look at what costumes had already been done for these characters. I felt that the missing element in the Mermaid Man costumes I saw was his characteristic round body. He is drawn as almost a perfect circle, so I knew that I wanted my costume to capture his round cartoony essence. I started by trying to figure out a structure that would be a smooth globe that I could cover with fabric. But I was stumped at how to achieve a lightweight sphere until I came upon this pumpkin costume:

Pumpkin

AHHH! I could make sections of fabric over foam and attach them together to make a circle, rather than try to make a circle from foam and then cover it seamlessly with fabric. For my body “model,” I bought a 75cm exercise ball ($10 at Walmart!). I plotted out a pattern on the ball with masking tape. This gave me rough dimensions for the pattern pieces that I cut out of wrapping paper. What you don’t see in the photo is the Dollar Store hula hoop that I used to make sure the center of the circle stayed round. More on this later.

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For the foam, I needed something that would have enough structure while being pliable enough to curve easily. Joann Fabrics had the perfect product, Foamology Household Foam. It is available in BIG sheets, I bought the 48″ by 96″ size and ended up using most of the roll between the two costumes. It is spendy at the regular price ($69), but you regular Joann’s customers know how to work those coupons. I got it for about $28. While at Joann, I also picked up most of the fabric I needed. I did have to order the green mermaid fabric online. I wanted the “Jumbo” Fish Scale lycra, since Mermaid Man is a jumbo kind of guy.

Now that I had patterns, foam, and fabric, it was just a matter of cutting and sewing each section separately, then sewing the sections together. For each section, there were two fabric pieces, inside and out, and a foam section. The fabric was sewn with the right sides facing out and the foam in between, with the seams on the outside. Once all the sections were done, I sewed these seams together with the new combined seams ending up inside the costume. I put on a neckband just like I would for a regular t-shirt. It was bulky, but I did manage to do it all on the machine.

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Once I had all the sections for the shirt done, I sewed a channel in the “waist” for the hula hoop. I took off the wrapping from the hoop and removed the rocks from inside. I didn’t want the hula hoop sound, just the shape. Then I opened up the hoop and put it through the channel so it was enclosed inside the waist.

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I moved on to the pants. I used the same patterns of sections as the shirt, but cut the foam first to figure out where the leg openings would be. I tacked the sections together with masking tape and tried them on, trimming as I went. When I was happy with how they were fitting, I used the foam sections as patterns to cut the fabric. Because I was using the spendy mermaid lycra for the pants, I used plain black lycra for the inner fabric.

PantsFoam

Since the bottom of the pants was a finished edge, I sewed that with the right sides together and then turned the right sides to the outside and sewed the side seams. I left the top edges open to slip in the foam sections after I had sewed all the pants sections together.

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MermanSewing3b

When the pants were together, I hand-sewed the pants to the shirt. The seam didn’t have to be perfect since it would be covered with the wide belt. The last tricky part was cutting the holes for my arms. I tried it on, measured, measured again, took a deep breath, and cut the holes. Whew, OK fit. I hand-sewed the edges of the armholes inside.

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The belt was made from a long strip of foam covered with yellow Lycra. I hand-sewed it to the shirt and pants. I plan to add pockets to it so I have someplace to carry the keys to the Invisible Boatmobile. The “M” symbol was a lucky find at Michaels, a cardboard letter that I painted to match. I bought a foam shell “bra” and took it apart and painted it lavender. My “bra” straps are elastic I hand-sewed on. I was going to make gloves, but found these green ones that are a pretty good match.

I made a long sleeve shirt from the same orange lycra as the outer body. I also made the green lycra tights. I have a serger which makes working with lycra a breeze. But you could just use a stretch stitch or even zig zag on a regular sewing machine and get good results.

MermanInProgress

So that is the basics of how I managed to make a round-body costume. Hopefully you will find something that will help in your own project.

MermaidManMe

Experiment in Invisibility – The Invisible Woman

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SueStormMe

When runDisney opened registration for their new Avengers-themed races, my fingers were flying over the keyboard to get registered. Once I managed to snag spots for my husband and I, it was time to pick characters for our costumes. With the whole Marvel Universe to choose from, it wasn’t easy. I wanted something a little offbeat, easily recognizable, and of course, fun to make as a costume. I soon settled on two classic Marvel superheroes (my husband and I being somewhat “classically aged” as well), Reed Richards, known as Mr. Fantastic, and his wife Sue Storm, the Invisible Woman. I knew I could reuse parts of the rig from my Kevin costume to make Mr. Fantastic, now I was just left with the question of how to become invisible. And I was on a deadline, since I wanted to try out our costumes at a local race, the Portland Superhero Run.

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I started by checking out the Sue Storm cosplays that have already been done. There have been some great ones, including this one by the amazing Yaya Han. But all the images I could find were clearly visible. Where was the invisible Invisible Woman? Next up was to figure out how to become invisible, or short of that, trying to discover a way to convey invisibility.

SueStormYaya

Sue Storm has been part of the Marvel Universe since 1961 and has had an assortment of costumes over the years. Not being one to go for the sexy costume, I chose to stick with the classic design.

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I picked this drawing to use as a guide for my design as I liked how the artist used the fade out to white to convey invisibility:

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There were two ways of achieving the look I was after; I could dip dye white fabric to fade out from aqua to white, or I could paint aqua fabric with a wash of white. I tried the dip dying first. I chose a fabric that I thought had a design that looked like it was becoming invisible. The dying went fine, I used Jacquard iDye Poly, which is one of the few dyes that work on performance knits. But when I tried on the costume, it looked like pajamas. Not super at all. And I was still left with having to dye Mr. Fantastic’s fabric to match. I knew it was time for Plan B.

A few days after my dyeing debacle, I stumbled on the exact aqua blue knit I needed during one of my rambles around local fabric stores (thank you Mill End Store!). I already had some Jacquard Lumiere Pearlescent White fabric paint on the shelf from a previous experiment for a Frozen costume. The Jacquard paints are colorfast on fabric and can be thinned with water to make the fade-out effect I was after. So I went ahead and sewed up the top and started to paint.

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I had inserted the sleeves into old plastic drink glasses so I could make sure I didn’t get paint bleeding over into the layer below. I had covered the rest of the shirt with Press and Seal plastic wrap to protect it from paint. I got the sleeve fabric wet and then layered on the paint, thick at the edge and then fading out up the sleeve.

After doing the top this way, I got much smarter with the pants and painted them BEFORE I sewed them together. The paint has a tendency to stretch the fabric a bit so it also helps with fit to paint first and then sew. It is also easier to set the paint with an iron before sewing, since you have a flat surface to iron.

I printed out a Fantastic Four logo onto iron-on fabric, making it as large as possible so it would be noticeable. I don’t have an ink jet printer, so I used my laser printer. I don’t recommend this, but it did work OK.

Next up was to determine if I could use body paint while running without breaking out or dripping color. I chose TAG Pearl White because it was a close match to my fabric paint. My first trial was just to do a small patch of the paint on my arm while running. No problem. It didn’t run when I sweated and my skin was fine. But it did rub off easily. Then I did another trial with a patch of paint sprayed with Graftobian Setting Spray. Even better. No reaction and it didn’t rub off, but still came off easily with water. So now I knew I would be fine unless it was raining on race day.

I decided I needed to make Sue’s force field. Unfortunately, I got too excited with what I was doing to take pictures so I’ll describe the process as best I can. I had seen an idea for using hot glue to make snowflakes on Family Ever after: http://www.familyeverafterblog.com/2012/12/ugly-sweater-week-diy-hot-glue.html. So I adapted that technique for my force field.

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To give the force field enough structure, I started with a plexiglass disk purchased from a local plastics store. I chose the size of the disk to match the bottom of my “mold,” a big Tupperware bowl. I got a cheap plastic cabinet pull from Home Depot to use as my handle. Before I started gluing, I drilled two holes in the disk so I could attach the handle later. I oiled the bowl with vegetable oil to prevent the glue from sticking, placed the disk on the bottom of the inverted bowl, and started gluing.

ForceFieldInside

I had wanted to use pearlescent glitter glue, but couldn’t find it locally so I just used regular hot glue. (Of course I found the glitter glue online later, so I now have a good supply.) It took a LOT of glue and a fair amount of patience to cover the bowl. The gluing was nothing though compared to the time it took to trim off all the little glue threads. What a pain! Once I had the threads off, I painted the glue with pearlescent white paint and then accented it with pearlescent aqua. I put on the handle through the pre-drilled holes, adding large washers so the disk would not crack.

ForceFieldOutside

Now I had costume, makeup, and force field ready. It was time to see if it would all hold up to a hot weather run. I put some makeup on at home and then touched it up when we arrived. I lined the car seat with a towel because the color did come off a bit despite the sealer. It was a super-hot day, but despite the sweat it all held up well. Here I am post-race, still clearly visible but hopefully with a bit of the illusion intact.

PostRace

We are looking forward to November and the runDisney Avengers races. If you see us there (unless I figure out a way to become completely invisible), be sure to say HI!

Making Dug from Up – My Adventure in Fur!

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Not everyone would be excited to run in a fur costume in summer. But thankfully, there was a volunteer silly enough to join our Up-themed group in the Portland Starlight Run (Maryalicia, you are a brave woman). Because really, what would an Up group be without everyone’s favorite talking dog, Dug? This post will detail how I made a fur running costume as runner-friendly as possible.

You may be surprised to learn (I was!) that there is a community of people who create fur costumes, they call them fursuits. These folks have developed high levels of craftsmanship and creativity in constructing their costumes. While not designed for running, they do have some awesome dance contests in them. Here is a clip of a fursuit Thriller dance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYfcRdu7bKA

I borrowed heavily from the fursuit community’s expertise to make my Dug costume. I tried to keep it as light and open as a furry dog suit could be and still look like the character. I started by taking a look at Disney’s walk-around Dug character. Open up the face, and you’ve got the basis of my design for a running Dug. I ended up leaving off the arms and just making paws to make it cooler to wear (it’s all relative).

DugDisney

I started building with the head. I was originally going to build the head over a long-billed baseball cap. That experiment failed because the cap could not support the weight of Dug’s long nose. I ended up using a bike helmet, which worked great.

I decided to make the head in two sections, an upper “snout” section and a lower jaw section. This would allow the most space for the “panting” runner to see and breathe. The upper section attaches to the helmet, and the lower section to the body. After patterning in cardboard, I cut out the snout pieces from plastic canvas and duct-taped them to the helmet. I used plastic canvas rather than cardboard for lighter weight and rain-resistance (I do live in Portland after all).

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The next step was the nose. This was pretty simple. I took a Styrofoam ball, cut it in half, shaped it a bit with sandpaper to be more oval, and painted it black with acrylic paint (can’t use spray paint on foam very well). I like using Styrofoam because it is so light and easy to shape. I used my favorite foam-friendly glue, Weld-Bond, to attach the nose to the snout. (Remember that hot glue and foam don’t mix. You will have melted foam and sadness.)

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Next up was the lower jaw. Again, I patterned it in cardboard first and then used the cardboard as a pattern for plastic canvas. I made the tongue very large to look like Dug was tired from running. Also because a big floppy tongue is funny. I made the tongue from plastic canvas covered in felt. Now I had my two head sections ready for fur, so I started on the body.

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I decided to use the same body pattern that I used for Kevin. Because if you already have a pattern for a big bulky body in your closet, why reinvent the wheel? I did the same construction process as Kevin, this time using fur over plastic canvas material. I had a hard time locating the exact color of fur I wanted locally, so I had to order online. I got two lengths, short for most of the body and long for accents.

I used the leftover plastic canvas fabric I used for Kevin, and just pieced it together to make big enough sections. I like this material because it gives a stiffness to the piece without a lot of weight. I could possibly have gotten by with the fur alone, but this gives some “body” to the body. I get this material locally, but if you can’t find it you can order online at: http://www.fabricdepot.com/catalogsearch/result/index/?cat=41&q=pet+screen. For some reason, they call it Pet Screen. They must have known I was going to made crazy animal costumes out of it.

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I decided to put the fur on the body sections before sewing them together. So it was time to cut some fur. The key with fur, especially long fur, is to cut just the backing and not the fur itself as much as possible. I used a brush and a metal ruler to make a “part” in the fur section that goes down Dug’s front and then cut down the part. You can also cut the fur from the back side with small pointy scissors, slipping the scissors under the fur to just cut the backing.

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I basted the fur pieces to the canvas with very large stitches, leaving room to sew the body sections together. Then I basted the front canvas to the back canvas loosely, to allow for adjustments. Next came the neck, which turned out to be tricky. I needed the neck to be sturdy, because I pictured the neck supporting the whole costume on the shoulders. I started with a wood embroidery hoop that was large enough to fit over my head. (I’m sure the other customers in Joann’s fabrics were wondering why I was putting hoops over my head.) I cut notches in the costume and basted it over the hoop.

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What I don’t have a picture of is the expression on my face when the wood hoop cracked apart when I tried Dug on for the umpteenth time. I’m sure it would not be suitable for publication. I ended up breaking up the hoop, pulling it out, and replacing it with heavy wire. By this time, I had Dug’s collar, which was heavy enough leather to hold everything together. His collar is made from two actual leather dog collars, which are so cool because they light up. Yes, they were expensive, but really, they were just too perfect. The control boxes for the lights even look like the voice box on Dug’s “real” collar. I attached the collar to the body using plastic zip ties that I colored brown with a Sharpie.

So there I was with a body, but it didn’t have enough of Dug’s chubby round shape for me. So I turned to my buds in the Facebook Running/Race Costumes group for advice on how to round out the body. (This is a fantastic, supportive group that I highly recommend to anyone interested in running costumes.) They came up with the suggestion of one of those mesh laundry hampers that pop up. Perfect! I found one at Target that even had handy straps to keep the costume supported on the shoulders. I just cut out the bottom of the hamper and basted it inside the body. Once I had the shape right, I hand-sewed everything securely and removed the basting. Now I had chubby Dug!

Hamper

My next great find was the big googly eyes. There is nothing like great eyes to bring a character to life. I got these from Amazon as well:

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the process of covering the head with fur. Probably because I was up to my elbows in hot glue and fuzz. But it was just a matter of cutting pieces of fur and gluing them to the head pieces. I did cut slits in the fur where there were vents in the helmet to try and give the wearer a break. They don’t show since they are on top of the head.

Once I had the fur on, I hot-glued black felt on the inside of the top and bottom of the mouth. Then I cut teeth from extra-thick white craft foam and glued those on. I cut them as a long strip, not individual teeth. I cut floppy ears from the long accent fur and glued them on, just at the top so they would fly around like real ears. I used my friend the plastic zip tie again to attach the lower jaw to the body. This gave a good space to see and breathe out of. And I found that by pitching my head forward, I could make it look like Dug was talking.

You can’t see it, but the head is attached to the body with Velcro under the collar. So it does come off, but I’ve found it’s easier to put on by just leaving the head attached and raising the whole thing over your head.

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Now Dug needed a tail. I used plastic canvas again, this time reinforced with wire around the edges and covered in long fur. I wanted it to wag, so I used WHAT to attach it to the body? You should know this one! Plastic zip ties. The ties go around the wire inside the tail and attach through the body and onto the laundry hamper. Hopefully very securely.

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I felt Dug was missing that extra something, and I realized it was paws. So I turned back to the fursuit folks and found this great pattern and tutorial on paw making from Matrices.net:
http://matrices.net/fursuiting.asp.

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I used my long fur and some very realistic-looking imitation leather to make the paws. When they were done, I trimmed the fur between the pads a bit shorter, just like you would do if you were grooming your dog. You can see the paws in this shot of Dug resting up for his big day. Sharp eyes can also spot our friend the zip tie on the collar.

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Now Dug was ready to run. How did it go? I’ll let you know soon! Its race day tomorrow and our group is so ready for that costume contest!

UPDATE:

Here is a pre-race shot of our UP group — we had a blast!!! The Starlight Run goes along part of the route of the Starlight Parade that follows it, so there were LOTS of spectators to cheer us on. The kids along the route all wanted high-fives from Kevin and those furry paws of Dug. I was so amazed at how everyone’s costumes came together. And luckily, held together. We all finished intact, with a big assist from our two non-costumed “spotters/guards” who ran alongside and kept other runners from getting between us and pointed out obstacles (Robin/Mr. Fredrickson had limited vision). Maryalicia, who wore Dug, reported that the costume wasn’t too hot since there was good air circulation between her and the fur. So if you are contemplating a furry costume, go for it! Take a cue from our friends the fursuiters and dance your way down the course.

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About Me


Hi! I am Sandy, from the running paradise of Portland, Oregon. I have been running races (very slowly) and making costumes for many years. I started this site to bring information and inspiration to others like me, who love any excuse to dress silly.

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